Macron slams ‘unforgivable’ 1962 slaying of Algerians

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PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday officially recognized the March 1962 indiscriminate killings of demonstrators of French descent in Algeria, acknowledging that the massacre remains “unforgivable.”

“I say it loud and clear today: this massacre of March 26, 1962 is unforgivable for the Republic,” Macron said during a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace with Algerian-born French nationals commonly known as “pieds-noirs” (black-feet), a derogatory term for those who fled and returned to mainland France following the independence of the North African colonies.

Macron, who is yet to formally announce his candidacy for presidential elections in April, is the first head of the state to acknowledge the brutal event, which was censored in the past. He disclosed that soldiers from the French military’s 4th Regiment fired on a crowd demonstrating in support of French Algeria.

“That day, French soldiers, deployed counter-intuitively, morally damaged, fired on the French. It is high time to say it. What was to be an operation of order ended in a massacre,” he said. The shooting took place days after France signed the Evian Accords on March 18, 1962, guaranteeing Algeria full independence.

People of French descent who were opposed to independence and wanted France to remain in Algeria took to the streets in protest. The unarmed protestors, who were trying to cross a roadblock during a siege laid by French forces anticipating uprisings and trouble from rebels, were shot at by soldiers from the French military who were armed with machine guns. Between 50-80 demonstrators are believed to have been killed in the shooting.

The incident marked the beginning of the exodus of people of French descent from Algeria, totaling more than 900,000. Deeply impacted by the sense of loss and longing for their country of birth, they faced discrimination in France and were treated as outsiders. -Agencies